The introduction to last week’s Tribune editorial read:
“A lot of city residents were probably scratching their heads last week when reading stories about relatively high absenteeism and relatively low “employee engagement” at city hall. Getting on the city’s payroll is seen by many on the outside as a plum job, with good pay and benefits and an alluring pension plan”
I agree. I hear similar sentiments in the community (although I would ask anyone to spend an hour on the sorting line at the Waste Resource Innovation Centre – in August – before generalizing too much about the nature of the work at the City).
City employees also agree. The Employee Engagement Survey scores were high in areas related to salary and benefits.
So if not compensation then what is it?
City employees identified several areas for management to improve engagement. All service areas are currently reporting through to their respective Council Standing Committees on their action plans.
One of the areas is recognition.
The political cartoon that accompanied the Tribune editorial demonstrates the additional challenge for managers in the public sector compared to their counterparts in the private sector.
Management failures, at any public institution, tend to impact the reputation of the entire sector. The cartoon was a good illustration of that.
While I don’t like it, I get it. Take, for example, the recent events in Hamilton. The headline read: City set to fire up to 32 public works staffers. The article notes: “one of the most egregious abuses of time was an employee who worked only 16 minutes and received pay for the entire day.”
This “scandal” is a betrayal on so many levels. It is a betrayal of the fundamental principle of an employment contract – a day’s pay in exchange for a day’s work. It is a betrayal of public trust. And it is a betrayal by these individuals of their co-workers who not only put in a good day’s work but likely “go the extra mile” in service to their community.
That brings me to another area identified by City employees to improve engagement – performance management.
The vast majority of people are inclined to co-operate, to help, to serve, to be engaged. However, we are “conditional co-operators”. We expect and demand fairness in exchange for our co-operation. When management ignores poor performance, it impacts the morale of everyone in the workplace. The conditions for co-operation and engagement are destroyed.
Bravo to the manager in Hamilton that stepped up and into a very public “scandal” to bring fairness to his workplace. Gerry Davis, General Manager of Public Works, said in a release that, “We are taking this situation very seriously. The inappropriate behaviour of this group of employees is very disappointing, but it is not reflective of all Public Works staff. Overall, Public Works is comprised of dedicated and faithful employees who take pride in the work they do to provide the services our community relies on.”